Article By Sean Wheaton, VP of Culinary at Cuisine Solutions
In the professional culinary world, seasonal cooking has been a common practice for millennia, as chefs aspire to take advantage of the best produce available. In a global market, seasonal cooking is complicated by disruptions in the supply chain, inconsistent pricing, and difficulty retaining the freshness of the product.
Companies who globally source and distribute food products consistently run into unexpected disruptions (see: the 2021 “traffic jam” in the Suez Canal that halted global supply chains for weeks). When natural and man-made disasters happen, this makes forward planning a challenge for international companies. Business and travel restrictions that resulted from the pandemic further compounded global supply chain issues and suffocated markets.
Sous vide, the revolutionary “perfect-temperature” cooking technique that involves the submersion of food products into water, alleviates many of the disruptions in the global supply chain. For restaurants and catering companies in particular, sous vide has become the unsung hero. By having the ability to keep a finger on the pulse of seasonal offerings around the world, sous vide suppliers like Cuisine Solutions have been able to reduce costs and transfer those savings to clients.
It has to do with procurement and the advantages of the sous vide method itself. In January and February, when turkey and other poultry experience lower demand, sous vide suppliers will source their poultry. By the time November rolls around and clients are scrounging for affordable poultry products, sous vide suppliers will fill the gap in the market by supplying affordably priced turkey at prices other food suppliers can’t match. This is because sous vide suppliers can source their products at the right time and freeze them until they’re ready for high-demand periods. A key benefit of sous vide is an 18-month frozen shelf life due to the method’s use of air-tight packaging, which preserves flavor, texture, and composition.
In addition to providing a cost-effective way for restaurants to avoid supply chain disruptions, sous vide has been heralded as a game-changing innovation when it comes to texture, flavor, and the overall dining experience. All types of restaurants can now offer superior food products at a fraction of the cost of traditional high-end food with this method. By sealing a product in food-grade plastic pouches and submerging it in water at a precise time and temperature, sous vide gives way to a final product that is perfectly cooked, every time. Patrons are delivered a final meal that is superior in quality, texture, and flavor.
The benefits continue: sous vide cuts waste, cook time, and prep time. Traditionally, meals could require an inordinate amount of prep time in a conventional restaurant environment. Chefs had to cut vegetables, prepare meat, season the food, and clean the various cooking instruments involved in the process including utensils and pans. With sous vide, prep time has been reduced to a mere fraction. In the wake of a global pandemic as restaurant-goers emerge from Covid lockdowns, restaurants are seeing an uptick in patronage combined with a staggering job market in recovery. In a time of staff shortages and increased demand, the time savings involved with sous vide are crucial. Restaurants that struggle to cope with these changing dynamics have been saved by sous vide’s productivity and time-saving attributes.
Waste is another factor that is dramatically curtailed by sous vide. With traditional cooking, the methods employed continue to rob the final product of valuable juices and flavors. When chefs grill a steak, for example, a lot of the key flavors inside of the meat are lost when the steak is squeezed and prodded. The juices are soaked out of the steak and fall through the grill. The same thing happens on a griddle or a pan. With sous vide, the product cooks in the pouch, so all of the juices remain—meaning there’s no chance of any flavor escaping. The technique allows food to retain their flavors, while enhancing texture and composition.
For all of these reasons, restaurant owners are increasingly turning to sous vide. From the global supply chain to the local, individual restaurants, sous vide provides real savings.
For restaurant owners and foodservice operators looking to learn more, visit the Cuisine Solutions website.
Sean Wheaton joined Cuisine Solutions in 2018 as culinary business development manager. He was named vice president of culinary in 2020, where he currently heads operations. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Art, Wheaton honed his skills in numerous fine dining restaurants in San Diego. In 2004, relocated to Washington, DC accepting a position as sous chef at Equinox working for Todd Gray. Equinox was nominated for a James Beard award all three years of his tenure at the restaurant.
Chef Wheaton freelanced for multiple catering companies, including the original incarnation of José Andrés Catering, working with Chef Katsuya Fukushima. During his 10-year stint with José Andrés’ Think Food Group he spearheaded many noteworthy off-site events at venues such as the White House, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the US Capitol. He served on the development team working on openings for several of ThinkFoodGroup’s full service restaurant projects including Mi Casa at the Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico; Bazaar Meat and Ku noodle at the SLS Hotel in Las Vegas, as well as America Eats Tavern, China Chilcano, FISH, and Beefsteak in Washington, DC. He also collaborated on ThinkFoodLab. José Andrés’ fast casual incubator working on Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas, as well as the Levy partnership at Audi Field, DC United’s new soccer stadium.